Conservatives Want Us To Burn Books SO BADLY, And Honestly It's A Little Weird.
One of the nicer things about being a liberal, I have found, is that I never really have to resort to "slippery slope" arguments -- because the things that conservatives actually do and say and want in the present are all terrible enough. I am never at a loss for material. I never have to fret if they will soon go "too far," because they usually already have. That ship sailed long ago!
Of course, those on the Right do not have that luxury, and so they must hem and haw about what the Left might hypothetically do in the future. Thus, we end up with patently ridiculous rants like today's column by John Kass in the Chicago Tribune, ominously titled "Burning books like 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is the honest next step for the anti-Kavanaugh left."
As demonstrated last week, the Right thinks they are really onto something with these "To Kill A Mockingbird" allusions. What a win! Because liberals love books, and they love "To Kill A Mockingbird" and it just makes sense that if a fictional man can be falsely accused of rape by a stupid woman, then obviously Brett Kavanaugh is innocent and we are being big ol' hypocrites. It is also known that we dislike the idea of burning books -- and so surely, one way to scare some "sense" into us, is to suggest that this is something we are headed towards doing.
As a student, the idea of book burning was terrifying to me, something done by a totalitarian government reaching into the hearts and minds of its people to convince them to erase threatening ideas.
Yet given the way the left has treated Kavanaugh, it would be fitting for them to put a match to the pile.
The acrid smell of burning paper and the sight of bright sparks shooting into the night sky would bring much-needed clarity.
And perhaps ritual chant, in the manner of those captured on the video of anti-Kavanaugh protesters in the Senate corridors, parroting the commands of organizers to shout down any senator who might even consider confirming Kavanaugh.
This would, of course, be a super believable slippery slope argument if only conservatives had not, historically, attempted to paint any group advocating for anything from labor rights to voting rights to civil rights to ending the Vietnam War to ending the Iraq War as a terrifying "angry mob" that has gone too far.
In addition to all this imaginary book burning we are about to do, Kass uses another example of a thing done by the Right to illustrate the horror of what the Left might do, hypothetically, in the future, at some point, maybe.
Years ago, Republicans used similar techniques to shout down dissent as the neoconservative-led GOP insisted on sending American troops to war in the Middle East.
The weapons were patriotism and fear. And those who dared questioned war were shamed as enemies of the state.
Back then I allowed myself to be herded into supporting war in Iraq. Years later, I promised that I would never be herded again. I hate being herded.
Hey! You know who didn't get "herded" back then?
Those of us who are now opposed to Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Perhaps he ought to consider that we actually just have better judgment than he does. In fact, he should really take a moment and think about how he felt about those of us who were right about the Iraq War at the time, and see if he can find any similarity to how he now feels about those protesting Brett Kavanaugh. I am willing to bet he found them pretty annoying, too.
The comparison he seeks to make here is that the idea of "believing women" is somehow comparable to believing that the Iraq War was just. In doing this, he -- like so many of his comrades -- purposely distorts what we mean when we say "believe women."
The goad used by the Democrats now is that all women who accuse men of sexual harassment are to be believed without question, even if there is no corroborating evidence. And those who dare question this are to be shamed.
"Believe women" is not the new "children don't lie." What it means, simply enough, is that when we are not in a court of law where the threshold of determining guilt is obviously a lot higher, we should assume that -- barring evidence to the contrary -- women are not guilty of lying about having been sexually assaulted or raped, just the same way we would generally assume that people are not lying about anything else that has happened to them, if they don't have a history of lying and their story is believable. As Christine Blasey Ford's story was.
If I were to say "Hey John Kass, let me tell you about this time I had my phone stolen on the bus!" it would be shameful of John Kass to automatically assume I was lying when he had no reason to believe I was -- even if the guy was never found guilty in a court of law. This is all we mean by believing women.
But back to the book burnings.
It may behoove Mr. Kass to know that there are still many school systems that ban "To Kill A Mockingbird," or that have at least removed it from their school curriculum. Most recently and notably in the not-exactly-a-liberal-stronghold of Biloxi, Mississippi.
There are, also, people doing actual book burnings. For reference, here is a picture of Benjamin Drake Daley and Thomas Walter Gillen, members of the violent right-wing group the Rise Above Movement (RAM), doing a little book burning on a day out to the beach. They are, to put it lightly, not liberals.
The people going around burning Harry Potter books? Also not liberals.
Of course, these things that have actually happened and are happening are far less worthy of Kass's concern trolling than what he believes liberals might do in the future if we don't automatically assume that every woman who says they have been sexually assaulted is a lying deceitful whore.
Ironically, Kass ends his missive with the following quote from 1984:
"The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For after all, how do we know that two and two makes four?"
Not sure that "two and two makes four" is the argument one ought to be pushing at the end of an essay meant to stoke fear over what people might hypothetically do in the future but are definitely not doing or even talking about doing now. That's not common sense, it's conspiracy.
Kass, clearly, would love it if liberals started doing book burnings -- especially of books like To Kill A Mockingbird -- as book burnings are something even many people on the Right are a tad embarrassed by. Were we to do this, it would wash away the sins of years of book burnings and bans by conservative concern trolls and put all of that nonsense squarely on the shoulders of his enemy. He wants to believe he is on the side of good, that he is on the side of civil liberties, that he is on the side of freedom.
Alas, I have a feeling he's going to be disappointed.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse